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Monthly archives for August, 2017

Bee Alive

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

2010 01 19_3455Trying to seat a new work habit. Write ancientrails, then my 750 words for Jennie’s Dead and after breakfast, do my 30 minutes on reimagining. Still cutting and filing posts. Workout. Lunch. Nap. Then, Latin and reading. After the writing, and before breakfast, catch up on the news. Worked yesterday. Ha. Takes awhile to get the body and mind to expect what I want at certain times of the day.

Kate went in to Jon’s new house on Tuesday after I got my hair and beard cut. New look! She took bedding for the kids. But going down the hill right now is fraught because our air conditioner has decided that above 85 degrees is just too hot for it to work. It blows, but it doesn’t cool. Denver, in the late afternoon, has been hitting the mid-90s.  Kate’s not a warm weather gal. Not in any way. She got overheated and it’s taking her a bit to recover. And, yes, the ac goes to the shop on Tuesday.

Artemis Honey, a good year

Artemis Honey, a good year

I went over to Rich Levine’s house last night for pizza and a salad. He’s the lawyer who did our estate work and a member of Beth Evergreen. He has also put lot of work into the new Beth Evergreen preschool project. The old preschool was about to shut down, taking with it not only the service provided to the kids, but a revenue stream for the synagogue. Rich and a few others, including Hal Stein, the new board president and Rabbi Jamie, who was a preschool teacher, led the effort to keep the preschool going under Beth Evergreen’s aegis.

The evening was cool and his beautiful house, which sits above Evergreen on the aptly named Alpine Drive has a mountain lawn; that is, one filled with boulders and native rock. After supper we walked up from his house, first on a short boardwalk, then on a trail over exposed rock, the mountain side, really, to a large open deck with an enclosed room where he does his academic work. Rich teaches constitutional law at the Colorado School of Mines.

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

The preschool’s Bee Alive theme this year correlates to Rich’s bee keeping project, which he began a year ago. We looked at his hives, he wanted my advice. His bee hives hang from a steel cable attached to a roof beam for the deck and about 50 feet away, a large ponderosa pine. This is a novel set up, mimicking, but with beehives, the way many people suspend bird feeders. Bears create the need. They love bird food and honey. A pulley system allows him to raise and lower the hives. Having their homes hanging in the air is just fine for bees.

I’m now, I think, an unofficial consultant and fellow worker in the preschool Bee Alive program. A lot of bee related work ahead. I have to do some research about mountain beekeeping.




Being in community

Lughnasa                                                                  Eclipse Moon

ancient-scholarI’ve not written about politics here for awhile. A welcome relief to both me and, I suspect, you, the reader. My political energies have become subdued, mostly as I decided to turn my focus to reimagining work, Jennie’s Dead, Ovid and Beth Evergreen. That feels right to me now, though the news pings me daily. What are you going to do about Charlottesville? What are you going to do about climate change? What are you going to do about Korea? What are you going to do about electing a new representative to the Colorado House of Representatives? Of course I know I can do nothing about them alone, the nature of politics is communal, so the choice is to remain isolated.

Beth Evergreen has absorbed my communal energy. Tara Saltzman, director of education for Beth Evergreen, wrote in a note about the bee-oriented hike up Mt. Pennsylvania, “Being Jewish is being in community.” I feel that. I’m part of the community there, doing my part, glad not to be a leader. They accept me, a peculiar offshoot of the Christian and UU ministry, a pagan.

Camus one-cannot-be-happy-in-exile-or-in-oblivion-one-cannot-always-be-a-stranger-i-want-to-albert-camus-123-46-22Next Tuesday those worlds, the political and the Jewish communal, conflict because I volunteered to set up for the adult education events all year, Tuesdays with Morim. At the same time at Grow Your Own, a nearby wine bar cum music venue, Tammy Story, a candidate for the Colorado House is going to speak to the Conifer Alliance for Action. Her opponent, Tim Neville, doesn’t believe education should be public among other strange notions. I’m going to set up chairs and tables at the synagogue.

577407_10151223800114776_1644126159_nTrump is still there, of course. Over the course of the last couple of weeks he’s given aide and comfort to white supremacists and neo-nazis, pardoned a sheriff who broke the law and engaged in inhumane treatment of immigrants. He also made Hurricane Harvey a campaign event. He’s a child, maybe 8 or 9, going off instinct, refusing history and decency. He is the greatest test our democracy has faced in my lifetime, more dangerous to our national fabric than the war in Vietnam and the Cold War. He must be challenged, over and over again, until he final slinks away into the dark place from whence he came. I’m glad there are many engaged in doing just that. I’ll do my part here from time to time, but that’s the balance of my political work for now.



Change Happens

Lughnasa                                                                        Eclipse Moon

20170731_182340Kepler has kennel cough, caused by the same organism, a bordetella variety, that causes whooping cough in humans, especially children. He got the bordetella vaccination, as did Rigel and Gertie, but he either got less of a dose-he didn’t want it-or he contracted a strain resistant to the vaccine. His racking, barking cough produces tenacious. Kate says this is a medical term designating a stringy, hard to clean up secretion. Well, it’s accurate. A visit to the vet later he’s on the mend, but the symptoms may last a while, depending on whether the organism is a virus or a bacteria, longer with the virus, shorter with bacteria.

Gertie went to Aurora with Kate and me yesterday evening when we took in the sleeping mats that came here late in the afternoon. She enjoyed the ride, she likes to go, but the heat, 95 degrees when we reached the Denver heat island, had her tongue lolling out of her mouth. Ours, too.

We got to the new house a bit before the kids and Jon returned from an initial trip to Target for essentials like food and clothing for Gabe, who’d forgotten to pack any. I suggested he go naked to school and he said, “No.” Ruth came in with groceries and began putting them away in the refrigerator. Gabe, also with packages, followed her, shouting in his high-pitched voice, “Gertie! She’s going to stay all night with us, right, Grandma?” Uhh, “No.”

Gertie and Ruth

Gertie and Ruth

Jon looked frazzled, a full day of teaching behind him and an evening and morning of single parenting ahead of him. This will be his first week on his own with the kids, except for the June vacation, since the divorce process began a year ago May. Right now there’s excitement and promise, enough to carry them through the first week, but not enough to ensure against upset and confusion.

Single parenting, as any of you who’ve done it know, has distinct challenges occasioned by full-time work and the rest of the time responsibility for the kids. Joint custody relieves this challenge half of the time, but creates challenges of its own. Jon and Jen are in the first weeks of creating a rhythm that not only serves Ruth and Gabe, most important, but that also serves them. It will take weeks, maybe months. In the meantime there is the potential for disagreements over pick up and drop off times, medical issues, school matters and the other things, large and small, that go with being a family, but a family divided by divorce.

Brother and sister filling the fridge for the first time

Brother and sister filling the fridge for the first time

As we drove home, back to the 35 degree cooler Shadow Mountain, both of us were a bit sad, a year plus worth of Jon living with us and the grandkids visiting on weekends behind us, memories now. There is, too, though, an exhilaration at having our house back. We can finish moving in.


Ruth’s Birthday Photographs for Grandma

Lughnasa                                                                         Eclipse Moon



Lughnasa                                                            Eclipse Moon



Life is changing for our family. Jon has a new house in Aurora. He and the kids will sleep in it together for the first time tonight. This is the first week of the new joint custody arrangement, a 50/50 split not possible without the new home.

The moving in process has begun. We took a small load down yesterday, including the toaster oven and the Keurig coffee maker, its small cups of coffee and tea visible just to Kate’s left.

Not only are Jon and the kids moving into the new house, it also means Jon is leaving Shadow Mountain. His commute will shorten considerably and on the weeks he doesn’t have the kids, he’ll ride his bike. He prefers that mode of transportation. Good for the abs.

20170827_153629He has a “multi-stage development plan” that involves shipping containers, changing door jambs, cutting out concrete in the back, creating a master suite. It will take a lot of time, but he really enjoys designing and then building. His home will become a work of art, too.

We’ll see Ruth and Gabe less often; but we’re still here, still Grandma and Grandpop living in the mountains.

That move we made, from Minnesota to the mountains, has become more consequential than we originally imagined. Supporting Jon and the kids through this acrimonious divorce and now the important transition to a new normal is the sort of thing families do.

See You In September

Lughnasa                                                            Eclipse Moon

 Since 1953, life has changed for me in September. The first day of first grade at Tomlinson Elementary, out on Route 9 heading toward Anderson, began a routine that is now, 64 years later, still ingrained. Harrison was a two-story building of brick and wood, its floors and stairs and bannisters smelling of wood polish and cleaning compound. My first grade classroom with Miss Butcher had a cloak room just inside its door with hooks for our coats and cubbies for whatever else we brought.

I loved when the school supplies flier would come in the mail, knowing it meant a trip to the store for glue, crayons, number 2 lead pencils, construction paper and other necessities. That list was the signal flare for my imagination. Just think what might be drawn or colored or written or constructed! Over time, the many Septembers since then, that list changed, but the bump of excitement I got when getting ready for the new school year remains.  I’m 41 years past my last September of a new school year, that one in 1976 at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota, far away in time, distance and intellectual challenge from Harrison.

At the temperate latitudes in which I have lived all my life, the gradual lowering of both daytime and nighttime temperatures which begins in August (or, at least, used to begin in August), signals my body first, then my mind, that something wonderful is about to happen. A few aspen trees change their leaves, the angle of the sun gets lower in the sky, and the yellow school buses stop traffic at Shadow Mountain Drive.

My energy level increases as the vitality sapping heat diminishes. Those projects for the year, that September to May year, snap back into focus: Jennie’s Dead, Reimagining Faith, translating Typhon’s story in Ovid, reading kabbalah, learning Hebrew. Mountain hikes like the one Saturday become more fun. The High Holidays are approaching, then Sukkot and after that Simchat Torah. Later on Samain and the start of Holiseason. Thanksgiving.

See you in September. With a grin on my face.


Lughnasa                                                                         Eclipse Moon

A friend on facebook shared this:


Lughnasa                                                                        Eclipse Moon

20170821_113508Totality in Tetonia, Idaho


Mountain Spirit at home


Bristlecone pine cones, Mt. Pennsylvania, outside Fairplay, Colorado

Pinus aristata

Lughnasa                                                                   Eclipse Moon

Bristlecone pines fascinate me. One of the subspecies, Pinus longaeva, has the oldest living entity on earth among its members, a tree over 5,000 years old. That puts its lifespan back before the development of Chinese civilization, a very long time ago. Pinus aristata, the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine, can live only about half of that. Even so, 2,500 years is still a long, long time.

Our guides on Pennsylvania Mountain (see post below) pointed out several Bristlecones on our hike.


A second year cone

A second year cone, note the bristles

Second and third year cones. Cones have a lot of resin.

Second and third year cones. Cones have a lot of resin.

Clark's nutcracker

Clark’s nutcracker

This little bird, the Clark’s nutcracker, sticks its long beak inside the third year cones and pulls out the seed, collecting them in food caches out on the open ground. In the spring when the snow melts and well before anything else is blooming, the Clark’s nutcracker has food for its family. Though it has an excellent memory for its caches, it does occasionally forget one and the bristlecone pine propagates.

If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see small white dots on the needles. These resin dots plus the bristles on the cone are sufficient to identify the species.

When bristlecones die, they can lie for as long as a thousand years before rotting.

Higher Up

Lughnasa                                                                Eclipse Moon

shaggy sheep2Took off yesterday morning about 7:30 am and drove west (or south) on Hwy 285 headed toward Park County, Bailey and Fairplay. I stopped at Grant, a place made visible only by its single, as near as I can tell, business, the Shaggy Sheep. There’s one of those yellow diamond signs just after it with a black silhouette of a bighorn sheep. This is one of several instances of displaced chefs seeking less frenetic lifestyles in the mountains. I mentioned the Badger Creek Cafe in Tetonia, Idaho in my eclipse post. There are others.

The breakfast I had was a deconstructed carnitas hash with green chili and two eggs on top. The deconstructed hash had carnitas laid over cut up chunks of potato, not mixed together as in corned beef hash. It was delicious. While I ate, I read a brand new book by an author from Boulder, Colorado, Megafire. Michael Kodas analyzes the sudden uptick of catastrophic wildfires since the 1970’s and why they’ll keep coming. It pleased me to see that the Shaggy Sheep had opened a second room, meaning they may stay in business, a far from certain conclusion for anything retail up here.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

After breakfast, I drove on toward the Kenosha Pass, a cut through a huge granitic batholith that forms the western boundary of the Front Range. After the 9,997 foot pass, Hwy. 285 descends sharply, a 7% grade, into South Park. Yes, that South Park. At the top of the pass South Park spreads out below, a wide treeless plain that stretches to another range of mountains beyond. They mark the continental divide. That was where I was headed.

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

Fairplay, the county seat of Park County, is a not unusual, for Colorado, meld of old mining town, tourist destination and current mining. A dispute reported in last week’s Flume concerns whether or not to rezone residential plots for mining so a gold mine, yes, a gold mine, can expand its operations.

Those of us hiking up Mt. Pennsylvania met at a Sinclair truck stop on the east side of Fairplay. I went in the car with our two guides and Rich Levine, a member of Beth Evergreen and the lawyer who drew up our new estate documents. On the drive we went past the disputed zoning plat. The gold mine, it’s no longer grizzled old men in long underwear with pans and picks, looked more like an aggregate pit.

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

At the trailhead we began our hike at 11,700 feet through willow, lodgepole pine and a surprising abundance of wildflowers. The trail meandered a bit while traversing another 500 feet up to 12,200. We passed through the krummholz layer, crooked trees, that mark the tree line. Trees right at the tree line are stunted and crooked due to the inhospitable climate. It’s the tree line, after all.

After the krummholz comes tundra, flat and bare except for plants that hug the ground, mat plants, and a few hardy flowers. The air is thin here on Shadow Mountain at 8,800 feet, but 12,200 is thinner yet. It was a struggle to get to the highest point of the hike, requiring breath breaks for most of us; not, however, Tara’s three teenagers who seemed to run with exasperating ease (to this old guy) up the trail. As did Marley, their dog.

A tree island at the krummholz level

A tree island at the krummholz level

Those of us from Beth Evergreen were there because of the research being done on Pennsylvania Mountain. Forty years worth of investigation has been conducted there into alpine bees and some of the plants that they pollinate. Native dandelions, for instance, may be under threat from the expansion of the familiar, but invasive dandelion probably growing in your yard right now. Unfortunately, the scientists had vacated the site, presumably due to the academic year just getting underway, so we were left mostly with the stunning scenery as a benefit.

There was one other gain. The Beth Evergreen pre-school, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the congregation, has as a theme for the year, Bee Alive. It came up in the conversation that Kate and I have beekeeping experience. Rich has started two hives, which he has very cleverly suspended on steel cable high above the ground to foil bears. Otherwise an electric fence, and a strong one, is necessary. Rich invited me over to his house next week for a pre-school staff meeting. Kate and I may end up sharing some of our equipment and knowledge. Should be fun.

A full day. And a good one.

August 2017
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